Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Growing and Pleasures: Crackers and Jam

Tomorrow I celebrate the birthday of a very special woman.  She is someone who has been in my life since I was 16 (now 35).  I have grown up with her and I respect and love her wholly for the time we have spent together.  I have always looked up to her for strength and knowledge in the true power of being a woman.

When I was younger, she worked at the Women's Center at Princeton University.  She offered me the opportunity to help out occasionally stuffing envelopes and such, meanwhile inviting me to the enlivened world of progressive women's college events.  I attended "Take Back the Night" rallies where I learned that women could have a voice and they could make statements by simply joining together.  During one of these rallies I learned about Ruth Gerson, a most amazing and talented singer/songwriter who I still listen to today.  I was invited to a viewing of "Girls Town" where Anna Grace, one of the main actresses, spoke on the life of growing up female in a hard pressed environment, a world I was not brought up to see or understand.  I even drove her back to the train in my little red Honda Civic and had a chance to grill her on all I had just learned!  This is also the woman who invited me to the talk by Marianne Apostolides on her book "Inner Hunger"   while I was having trouble with body image and hunger disorders.  This is a woman who has propped me up and given me the strength, information and love I needed at every turn.

Last year I was lucky enough to return the gift and took her to an Ani DiFranco and Melissa Ferrick show in NYC.  It's the least I could do.  There is not a lot I could do to top that this year.  I fall back on what I know best for showing love.  Food.

Here is a recipe I constructed with her tastes in mind.  We have shared food, and the creation of food excites us both.  I can only hope this recipe stands up to her extraordinary taste and she enjoys it as much as I do!

 Sprouted Wheat Walnut Rosemary Raisin Crackers

  • 2 -1/2 cups sprouted flour
  • 1 cup yogurt (homemade preferred)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or butter), softened

  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • extra sprouted flour for dusting

Whip the coconut oil or butter, with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, until fluffy (if using coconut oil, it must be solid/cold to whip). Once the oil is fluffy, add the sprouted flour, yogurt, sea salt, and baking powder into the coconut oil. Mix well until a soft dough ball forms.

Combine the raisins, rosemary, and walnuts in a food processor and process until combined and pebble sized. Add to the dough and mix until well combined throughout. Remove the dough and form into a ball.

Sprinkle a large surface with more sprouted flour and place the dough ball on it. Push it down with your hands to flatten. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough and roll out to 1/8 – ¼ inch. The thinner they are, the crispier they will be. Cut into any shape you wish, I made rough rectangles, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment paper on cookie sheet.

Cook for 20 minutes, until browned. Flip and cook for another 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them in the last five minutes to avoid over darkening.

Let cool on a rack and place in an air-tight container. These will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Quick Fig Spread
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 ¼ cup filtered water
  • Squeeze or two of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • ½ tsp black pepper, may use a few cloves, a few cardomom pods, or a few sprinkles cinnamon

Combine the figs and water in a saucepan. Simmer 15 minutes. Add the black pepper or other spices and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Pour into a food processor and add lemon juice and honey (remove any whole spices used). Blend until combined and thick.

Keep in an air-tight container 3-5 days.

These would be delicious served with a good brie or goat cheese.  Enjoy!

Cheri, you have helped to shape the person I am today and that is a person I am proud to be and excited to share with you, and the world, for all the days to come.  Thank you for being in my life.

-And I didn't use sweet spices cause I know you don't like them!

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Indian Kitchen: A Refreshing Summer Meal

Before I jump into today's topic I wanted to write a bit about my experience with the Whole30.  As you may remember I spent the month of June on an elimination diet where I cut out grains, gluten, dairy, sugar, legumes, soy, MSG, and Sulfites.  The beginning was quite hard as my body was detoxing from everything.  I felt sluggish and sleepy most of the time, was also having a horrible time sleeping, and was generally a very grumpy human being!  By the time the third week hit though, I was starting to feel pretty good and was noticing all sorts of wonderful changes.  I began sleeping through the night, a luxury for me as I have not been a good sleeper in recent years.  I also began waking up before my alarm, ready to face the day.  I began to have a lot more energy and I noticed feeling much stronger while exercising.  I also began tasting and smelling things differently.  Amazingly, when I ate fruit, rarely because fruits are not as nutrient dense as veggies, it tasted so sweet almost like candy!  I could smell so many things i hadn't noticed before and in general eating was becoming a completely new experience.

I learned so much from those 30 days.  I learned how to enjoy food during a meal time then move on to the next thing and not desire a snack out of boredom or habit.  I learned how my body reacted to food and how to nourish my body with food in balance.  After the 30 days were over I then learned how my body reacts to the foods I had eliminated.  One sad discovery is that I cannot by any means tolerate corn.  I love Jersey corn during the summer but absolutely do not love what happens to my tummy after eating it.  Oh well, it's a good thing it's mostly GMO anyway so am not missing much!  I also found that my body won't tolerate soy.  I ate very little soy to begin with but now I don't know that I will partake in it knowingly again.  One meal that was filled with soy and a horrible night afterwards leaves me with little desire to eat it!  I would hugely recommend the program to everyone, it is really a wonderful way to get back in touch with your body and break some of those defeating habits around food!  For more information check out the website


I have been on an Indian food kick as of late.  The Hubinator and I just returned from vacation in Florida visiting his parents and we ate quite a bit of it while there.  It is a great way to use loads of veggies and most dishes freeze well so I recommend doubling the recipes to have two meals while just cooking once.  The meal I am presenting today is a combination of North Indian and South Indian cuisines.  We found that the lightness of the meat dish is a surprising complement to the vegetarian fare from the South.  This is by no means and traditional meal but quite tasty none the less.

Sookha Keema
Dry-cooked Spicy Ground Meat

Keema is a mouthful of flavor that is great on it's own as an entree with rice or bread or can be used as a stuffing for cabbage or zucchini. I always make a double batch as it disappears very quickly around here!

  • 2 Tbsp Coconut oil or Ghee
  • 2/3 Cup Onions or Celery, chopped
  • 4 tsp Garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp Asafoetida powder, only if using celery instead of onions
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 Green Chilis, seeded and minced
  • 1 lb Ground Meat such as beef or lamb
  • ¼ tsp Turmeric
  • 1 ½ tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Garam Masala, available in most spice sections of the grocery store
  • 2 tsp Lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions or celery and cook stirring constantly until they turn a caramel brown. If using celery, add the asafoetida and mix to combine. Add garlic, ginger, and green chilis, cook a for 2 minutes more then add in the ground meat. When the meat has begun to brown and lose it's pink color, sprinkle in the turmeric and salt. Stir to combine then sprinkle in ¼ cup hot water, cover and reduce heat. Let the meat cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove the lid, the moisture should be completely absorbed by now. If it is not, increase the heat and cook until it is evaporated. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in the garam masala, lemon juice, and cilantro. Serve hot or room temperature.
Note: this is a very dry dish and should not have much in the way of a sauce or any moisture to speak of. 

As I mentioned, Keema is quite tasty with rice or bread.   I am limiting grains and gluten in my diet so I modified the next recipe to fill the space on my plate with out filling my belly with gurgles and discomfort!   Cauliflower is a great substitute for rice.  It holds up well with quick cooking and retains some crunchiness that is quite satisfying.  
To make cauli-rice: Break the cauliflower into small florets, removing as much stem as possible, saving for another use.  Place the florets into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles cous cous or.... rice!  This can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.  It is now ready to be turned into a scrumptious rice dish.

Coconut "Rice"
You can use traditional rice as well, simply follow recipe as written replacing the cauliflower with 2 cups cooked rice.

  • 1 Tbsp Coconut oil or Ghee
  • 2 cups riced cauliflower
  • 3 Tbsp raw cashews 
  • 1/2 fresh Coconut, grated (3/4 cup dried, unsweetened, flaked coconut)
  • 2 Green Chilis, stems removed and halved
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp Coconut oil or Ghee
  • 1 tsp Black Mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp Urad Dal
  • 1 tsp Channa Dal
  • 1/2 tsp Asafoetida powder
  • Few Kari Leaves
Heat 1 Tbsp fat in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the cashews and fry until golden brown.  Remove to a paper towel and add the coconut.  Fry until it turns a reddish brown.  Remove as well.  Add in the remaining 2 tsp fat and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, and channa dal.  When the mustard seeds begin to pop and sputter, add in the asafoetida, kari leaves, halved green chilis, cauliflower, and coconut.  Saute for about 5 minutes until the cauliflower just begins to soften.  Remove from the pan and garnish with the cashews.

Vegetable Medley
This is a quick salad to round out a meal.  Many types of veggies can be used, I like a mixture of crunchy and softer veggies including cucumber, carrots, radish, beets (fermented are delicious here), tomatoes, and my most favorite, sprouted beans.  Whatever you have on hand will work.  I have made it with just cucumber and tomato, or even cucumber on it's own.  This salad is very versatile!

  • 2 cups mixed chopped vegetables of choice
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp Coconut oil
  • 1 tsp Black Mustard seed
  • 1 tsp Cumin seed
  • 1 tsp Urad Dal
  • 1/2 tsp Asafoetida
  • a few Kari leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
Combine the veggies and cilantro in a bowl.  Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the mustard seed, cumin seed, and urad dal.  When the mustard seeds pop and splutter, add the asafoetida and kari leaves. Pour over the veggies, add salt to taste and the lemon juice.  Stir to combine and serve.

I love this meal for a busy afternoon when I want something flavorful and fast.  The whole thing can be made in an hour but it tastes like you have been working all afternoon.  It keeps and freezes really well, the flavors meld and improve the next day.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Nut and Seed Milk: No Dairy Needed!

Almond and other nut and seed milks are great substitutes for dairy milks.  They can be used anywhere you would use a dairy milk.  I love having vanilla hempmilk over granola or in my oatmeal.  They are tasty in tea or coffee and can be used in baking.  Almond milk is really easy to make and the recipe translates for pretty much any seed or nut you choose.  My two favorites are almond and hemp.

Almonds are full of "good" fats an minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.  They are also high in fiber and have some protein.  They should however be soaked and preferably sprouted before using them to make nut milk, as nuts and seed can be hard on the digestion.

Use raw, whole, unpeeled almonds. I start soaking either in the morning, or the night before. Check the almonds and discard any that are broken, save for another use.
Combine 1 cup almonds and 3 cups filtered water in a wide mouth glass jar or ceramic container.
Place somewhere away from direct sunlight.  Almonds don't need light to sprout, but don't want to be too cold or too hot. Soak for about 10 - 12 hours or overnight. Rinse the almonds after they have soaked for several hours, then cover again with fresh water and continue soaking.
After soaking for 10-12 hours, or overnight, pour the water off and rinse the almonds with cold water, then drain. The water will be brown from the skins.  At this point you can move forward with making almond milk but I like to take a step further and sprout them for optimal nutrition and digestibility.
Place the almonds back in the glass jar and cover. Leave for another 10-12 hours or overnight, rinsing occasionally.

Your almonds are now prepped to make almond milk.  With any seed or nut you will want to soak them before making milk.  Quantities will be the same.

Place the almonds in a food processor and add 2 cups filtered water and 2-3 dates.  You can also add 1 tsp vanilla extract but it is not necessary.  Whir them around until the almonds are reduced to mere bits.  Pour everything off into a strainer lined with cheese cloth or into a nut milk bag.  Strain into a glass container and refrigerate.  You can then add the almond bits back into the processor and add another cup of water to strain out.  At this point you can thinly spread the leftover almonds onto a baking sheet and allow to dry in a low oven, 175 degrees for 4-5 hrs (keep an eye) or on a dehydrator overnight.  Pack this meal up in a glass jar and use to sprinkle over yogurt and fruit, or crust a chicken breast or piece of fish with it.  It's quite tasty and still very nutritious!  As I have said, this process can be duplicated for any nut or seed you like.  I like to make hempmilk because of the high content of omega-3 and it has a rich, nutty flavor.

Almond Meal Crusted Fish with Creamy Greens

2 filets of your favorite fish.  Tilapia, salmon, or swordfish are mine
3-4 Tbsp Almond meal (leftover from making Almond milk)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Ghee or melted butter
Lemon Wedges
Salt and Pepper

1 Bunch of your favorite greens. Kale, beet, or mustard are mine
Ghee or butter
1/2 Onion sliced
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped large
1/4 cup Almond milk
1 tsp Arrowroot (cornstarch will work but you should invest in arrowroot as it is not GMO)
Salt and Pepper

Combine Almond meal, garlic, ghee, and a little salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Mix with your fingers until the ghee has soaked into the almonds and becomes a crumb.  Rub the fish with a little ghee and sprinkle the almond crumb over the fish and bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes per inch of thickness of fish.

Meanwhile, Wash and chop your greens.  Heat a large skillet, with a lid, over medium high heat.  Add about a Tbsp of ghee and your onions.  Saute the onions until they are wilted and begin to caramelize.  Before they get too brown, add your greens and tomatoes, tossing to incorporate the into the onions.  Cover and turn down the heat.  Cook for about five minutes.  You want the greens to wilt and become soft but not cook down to nothing.  Combine the arrowroot and the almond milk, whisk to combine.  Turn heat back up to medium and pour almond milk mixture over your greens.  Cook until thickened, taste and adjust seasoning.

Pile half the greens on a plate and place 1 piece of fish over top.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Enjoy!